Friday, April 7, 2017

Priorities & Distractions – Holy Week

I would like to congratulate everyone with the feast of the Annunciation today! How frustrating it has been to have to be away from the church during these holy days. God-willing I will be well enough to participate in the Holy Week Divine Services in their entirety. Fr. Moses also has gotten ill – please remember him in your prayers!

Today is not only the feast of the Annunciation, it is also the day of the martyrdom of Patriarch Tikhon. And we should not overlook this. Below please find more information on both of these important commemorations.

Annunciation – English

Annunciation – Russian

St. Tikhon – English

St. Tikhon – Russian

Today with the Matins service for Lazarus Saturday this evening we begin Holy Week. How hard it is to believe! Were we not just reading the Great Canon in the first days of Great Lent? But indeed, time marches on, and perhaps during Great Lent even faster than usual, and we have reached these great and holy days where we accompany our Lord first to Jerusalem to celebrate the outward height of His ministry on this earth, and then throughout the next days as he is betrayed, mocked, judged, crucified, and sacrificed – all for our sake. And indeed this is for US! This is not for God’s sake – this is for OUR sake. God is without need of anything – all that He does in His ministry on this earth is for us and for our salvation. Given this – we need to spend some time now setting our priorities for the next week. A week we want to spend with the Lord. But that will not happen if we just have some sort of hypothetical or theoretical wish to do this. We need to add action to our desires – and we need to do that now.

First, please have a look the schedule below. Then take out your phone, or you paper calendar – whatever it is that you use to make sure you don’t miss hair cuts, dentist appointments, and other such things – and mark those services that you want to attend in that calendar.

Holy Week Calendar at St. Vladimir’s

Second, look at the Holy Week schedule one more time, take our the calendar one more time, and challenge yourself. You’ve already put those services in your calendar that you plan to attend. Now add another. Just one more. And if you don’t have the service of the 12 Gospels on Thursday night I would like to suggest strongly that you make that the one you add. This is the service of our Lord’s crucifixion. This is where the Apostles fled. Let us be with Him – let us stay with Him.

Third, let us decide that social media is going to play a less central role in our lives this coming week. In fact, I would strongly suggest not looking at social media AT ALL until you have attended the morning service at St. Vladimir’s (there will be services every morning and every evening this week, God-willing), listened to the morning service on our Live Stream, or – if neither of those is a viable option, read the entry for the appropriate day of Holy Week:

Holy Week – English

Holy Week – Russian

Let us also decide that if we do engage in social media this coming week that it will be for the SOLE reason that we will then know who needs our prayers most – and that we will pray for those that we read about there who are suffering. This is a strict week for us. We are being asked to focus radically on our spiritual lives. To be with Christ to the greatest extent possible. To stay with Christ even when the Apostles fled. When we are present at the Divine Services we are mystically present at the very events themselves. And even if we cannot be at the services – at least let us understand what is happening – to be VERY conscious of the reality of this week – through reading about this and putting this front and center in our lives.

Holy Week is a great gift to us. If Great Lent is our excuse to live not as children of the world but as children of the light, then how much more is this true of Holy Week? MUCH more true! So let us adopt this paradigm: this week we will be with Christ to the greatest extent possible. Period. Full stop. No excuses. No pretensions.

The insanity of social media, other mass media, and other distractions will be waiting for us on Bright Monday. Between now and then let it at least take a back seat to Christ. And if we put the world in a lower place on our priority list – in the back seat as it were – we might just find that we like it in the back seat – which may I suggest is where it should always live.

May God grant us all a spiritually fruitful Holy Week!

Fr. Gregory

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